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Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is split into two sections (north and south) which tower over the Gunnison River below.

Both rims give you a unique view of the park and have their own highlights. In this guidebook will tell you everything you need to know about visiting one of America’s most underrated canyons.


The Visitors Guide To Black Canyon of the Gunnison

sitting on the edge of black canyon of the gunnison national park in colorado

North vS South Rim

Each rim of the park has its own highlights. In this article we discuss the main differences between each side so you know which one to visit.


gunnison point overlook on the south rim of the black canyon of the gunnison national park

Top Things To Do

If you only have one day in Black Canyon of the Gunnison don’t miss these top activities!

  • 1-day trip itinerary
  • 2-day trip itinerary

overlook from the chasm view nature trail black canyon of the gunnison

Best Hiking Trails

The best hiking trails in the park – ranked for scenic views, kids, wildflowers, and more.

  • Download a printable hiking map!

north rim campground in black canyon of the gunnison national park

Black Canyon Campgrounds

Spend the night in and around the Black Canyon and the city of Montrose.

  • Best tent camping sites
  • RV campgrounds
  • Dispersed camping

visiting black canyon of the gunnison national park in winter

Best Time To Visit

Black Canyon of the Gunnison can be visited year-round! Find out which activities are available in winter, summer, spring and fall. Plus, winter activities and road closures to be aware of.


driving east portal road in black canyon of the gunnison national park

East Portal Road

This is the best scenic drive in Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We explain how to drive to the base of the canyon.


Black Canyon of the Gunnison Facts And Information

Where is Black Canyon of the Gunnison?

The park is located in southwest Colorado, 14 miles from Montrose. The remote location makes Black Canyon of the Gunnison one of the least-visited National Parks the US.

To get there, drive 7 miles North on CO Highway 347 from the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 east of Montrose.

Most visitors arrive and tour the park using their personal vehicles because there is no public transportation or shuttle service in the area. The closest major airport is in Grand Junction, CO.

Drive times to the South Rim Visitor Center:

  • Montrose to Black Canyon of the Gunnison: 20 minutes
  • Telluride to Black Canyon of the Gunnison: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Ouray to Black Canyon of the Gunnison: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Grand Junction to Black Canyon of the Gunnison: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Colorado Springs to Black Canyon of the Gunnison: 4 hours, 30 minutes
  • Denver to Black Canyon of the Gunnison: 5 hours

What is the Black Canyon Entrance Fee?

A 7-day vehicle pass for Black Canyon costs $30. The annual pass is $55 and there are discounts for military members and seniors.

The cheapest way to get into Black Canyon of the Gunnison is to purchase an Interagency Annual Pass for $80 which will get you into every National Park for a year.

Where does the Black Canyon get its name?

Sections of the Black Canyon only receive 33 minutes of sunlight per day. The shadowy walls appear black throughout most of the day.

How did Black Canyon of the Gunnison form?

About 30 million years ago, massive volcanoes erupted and buried both sides of the Gunnison Uplift (a small section of metamorphic rock). As the Gunnison River flowed through the uplift, deep chasms were formed over time creating the Black Canyon.

How wide is Black Canyon of the Gunnison?

The narrowest portion of the canyon is only 40 feet wide. This section is appropriately named “The Narrows.”

How deep is Black Canyon of the Gunnison?

The lowest point in Black canyon is at Warner Point which has a depth of 2,722 feet. The deepest canyon in America is Hells Canyon in Idaho and Oregon.

How long is the Black Canyon?

The Black Canyon stretches 48 miles long, although the length of Black Canyon National Park is only 14 miles.

What is the elevation in Black Canyon of the Gunnison?

The canyon rim is about 8,000 feet above sea level, so even the short hikes can feel strenuous. Warner Point is the highest overlook which is 2,722 feet above the Gunnison River.

How far does the river drop in Black Canyon?

On average, the river drops about 43 feet for every mile throughout the entire length of the canyon. For comparison, the Colorado River only drops 7.5 feet per mile in the Grand Canyon! The steepest river drop is located at Chasm View where the water descends 240 feet within a mile.

How old is the Black Canyon?

Exposed rock at the bottom of the canyon dates back almost 2 billion years which is some of the oldest exposed rock in the world! However, it didn’t become a National Park until 1996.

What makes the Black Canyon so special?

Black Canyon of the Gunnison has low visitation numbers and incredible views. At Black Canyon you can see the oldest exposed rock in the world, the highest cliff in Colorado, and one of the narrowest canyons which only gets 33 minutes of sunlight per day at its base.